Of Wonder and Deep Magic

Consider this: the soul-soaring delight of a child receiving a gift upon which his heart was set. This is a wonder.

Consider this also: how the child’s delight pales in comparison to the joy of the parent, the gift-giver. This, too, is a wonder, and brushes the edge of a deep magic.

To understand this is to understand the heart of the True King.

Advertisements

Catechized: Confessions & Reflections (4)

Q. 4. What is God?
A. God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

When we contemplate the Transcendent Creator of the universe it is difficult, because in the analysis we have no adequate words.  Everything falls short, which is at the heart of the commandment against idolatry: even the most respectful, reverent images we could make of our God fall woefully short.

We are created in the image of God, representing Him within the finite bounds of Creation in a very limited way.  We are like Him and yet altogether unlike Him.

It is important to think through His infinite nature (to the extent that we can), His eternal existence and complete lack of change.  This is difficult for creatures who pretty much define their lives by change, but nonetheless necessary if we are to avoid important pitfalls in our faith.  For example, justice, truth, goodness and mercy begin with God, not any external standard.  There is no standard by which God can be judged, for He is the author of every standard.

I have heard men and women say “well, if God is that way, then I cannot worship Him.”  And this is an absolutely true statement, up to a point: none of us can worship God in our natural fallen state.  We are wholly incapable of worship (Romans 1-3, Ephesians 1-2), being dead in sin.  But that isn’t what they really mean.  What they really mean is that they have a concept of justice they’ve gotten from somewhere, a concept of mercy, a concept of goodness, and now they will compare the Transcendent, Unchanging Creator to their standard.  Generally as they do this, they are blind to the breath-taking arrogance of their position.  As they read Scripture, they interpret God’s actions through their filter of what He should be in their minds versus who He is revealed to be, and they go astray.

Beware this: if you worship a god that you are comfortable with, who contains no element of fear for you, whose mystery is largely solved in your mind…

…you do not worship God at all.

Catechized: Confessions and Reflections (3)

Q. 3. What do the Scriptures principally teach?
A. The Scriptures principally teach, what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.

Perhaps the greatest struggle for us, in our so-called modern civilization, is having God tell us who He is, and not defining Him for ourselves.  His Word tells us who He is:

The God of Israel, who brought His people out of the land of Egypt, out of slavery.

The God who’s name is Jealous.

The God who will break those who oppose Him.

The God who loved His people so much, He sent His son to die to save them, even when they were His enemies.

The God who sends rain and sun on all, even those who remain in rebellion against Him.

What duty does He require of man?  Perfect obedience, of which we are incapable.  Christ’s righteousness is counted as our own (for His covenant people), and our excitement and gratitude should be boundless in response to this fact.  Jesus was and is the perfectly obedient One.

We don’t have to obey.

We get to obey.

It’s a privilege.

Catechized: Confessions and Reflections (1)

Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

I long saw God as a thing to be endured, not a Person (actually, Persons) to be enjoyed.  In my youth, religious instruction was exactly that: instruction.  Step 1, pray this prayer.  Step 2, act this way.  This is in no way meant to be a criticism of those who were influential on my life in this time period.  The Gospel along is offensive enough; I’m not trying to offend as well.  But the story of Scripture didn’t leap off the page, didn’t grab me and take me for the ride of my life, until much later.  Think about it.  Savor this truth, let it melt on your tongue like a delicious piece of fat from your favorite cut of meat…

We are to glorify God, in worship, with love, through service, flowing from a heart of gratitude because He is, indeed, the Gracious One who redeems His people.

And this – all of this, the wondrous story and our special place in it – is to be savored, a font of laughter, altogether thoroughly enjoyable.

Just let that sink in.

Sublime

I drown in tears that do not fall
Each smile a lie I do not tell
Each breath a page I do not write
My life a book I do not read

In shadows vain we seek for light
Blind guides who call our stumbles dance
Our wretched shrieks a symphony
Our groping hands a deep romance

How long, O man, how long until
With eyes to beauty drawn we see
The truth that lies beneath the sun
Sublime divine simplicity

-Charles Baldon, April 2014

of theology and tulips

First off, a beautiful photo, courtesy of the interwebs… tulip

but more importantly, a beautiful truth from the Word.  (Quick note – this isn’t meant to be an explanation of the Gospel from scratch, but rather a hopefully-helpful short guide for Christians who hear these terms thrown around and wonder what all the fuss is about.)

“TULIP” is an acronym from the early Protestant Reformation, designed as a clear and simple way to express 5 critical truths of the Christian faith.  These points are not exhaustive, in regards to either the character of God or His glorious gift of salvation, just helpful.

T – Total Depravity.  In Adam, all mankind sinned, and so we are depraved, or morally corrupt.  When we say this condition is total, we aren’t saying that we are as bad as we could possibly be, just that every part of us – every word, every thought, every deed, every emotion – is tainted by the presence of sin.  And being morally corrupt beings tainted by sin, we are both unwilling to turn from our sin and unable to save ourselves from the penalty of our sin, which is death.  So are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners?  The Biblical answer is a resounding “yes!” (Romans 1-3, Ephesians 2)

U – Unconditional Election.   Elect is the Biblical term for those who have been chosen by God to be saved,  from before the foundation of the world.  We see this glorious truth worked out around us on a daily basis as people are saved by grace through faith, and so become part of the church, or the elect.  Unconditional simply means that this election on the part of God is not because of anything we have done, or any condition we have met.  In other words, God isn’t saving the “good” people who have earned it, He is saving those whom it is His good pleasure to save, for we all justly deserve Hell.  This salvation is not determined by the sinner, but by God Himself.  (Romans 8-9, Ephesians 1-2)

L – Limited Atonement. Limited atonement simply means the redemption of the cross was particular to a group of people; or in other words, that every sin of those being saved was absolutely forgiven, forever, through Jesus’ atoning death there.  Instead of limited some scholars use the word definite, in that Jesus went to cross as part of a concise plan of salvation, put in motion by God before the foundations of the world.  When Jesus declared the debt of sin paid, it wasn’t potentially paid, or partially paid, it was fully paid.  Period.  And that’s the story of Scripture from one end to the other: God expressing His sovereignty in the salvation of a particular (not universal) group of people. We don’t tend to freak out when we read in Exodus that God redeemed Israel at the expense of Egypt, because of time and cultural distance, but this phrase above all others – calling the atonement limited – often throws Christians into fits.  All the doctrine of limited atonement states is the clear Scriptural principle that God is working out His plan to save His church, the bride of Christ, and Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for the sins of His bride – not the whole world, or the whole world would then be forgiven and be His bride. Thus, the word “limited” is used to describe the atonement. (Genesis 12, Exodus 3, John 19, Ephesians 5)

I – Irresistible Grace.  The grace of God expressed in salvation is irresistible in the sense that those God has purposed to save will be saved.  People do make real choices in the real world that have real consequences, and the best way to understand this truth is to understand that in our basic sinful natures, not one of us seeks God.  Not one of us wants to seek God, and so we do what we want instead of what He wants.  We act consistently with our nature.  As the Holy Spirit regenerates a heart, the nature of that heart is changed, and so responds to the Gospel by faith, in accordance with it’s new nature.  Again a real choice is made in the real world by a real person, and once again that choice is consistent with the new nature of the person in question.  So God’s grace is absolutely irresistible, and our choices absolutely are real moral choices; these truths are not incompatible. (Romans 3, Ephesians 2)

P – Perseverance of the Saints.  God’s mark upon the Christian (literally, His seal of redemption upon us) is the Holy Spirit.  Those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit are well and truly saved: eternally saved.  Our salvation is both complete, and still being worked out in our daily lives as God sanctifies us (makes us more like Christ).  But the Bible leaves no doubt whatsoever that those whom God has purposed to save, will be saved, as we stated under irresistible grace.  And our glorious hope comes from the fact that God keeps His word and does not fail His people: His deliverance has been promised, and to His own glory He will save us.  As for those who appear to be part of the church and then fall away or leave the church, the reality is just that: they never came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, they merely maintained the appearance for a time.  Those whom He knows, He keeps, and no one can take us away from Him. (Matthew 7, John 10, Romans 5-8, Ephesians 1-2)

Progress!

Forward.

Forward.

Progress.

Forward.

Evolving.

All these words are finding their place in the gay marriage debate, front and center on our national stage.  And all I’m asking you to do today is consider them, what they mean, and what they imply.

To move forward, to make progress, and in the sense that we use the world ‘evolve,’ a person (or group of people) must be going somewhere, moving toward some goal, some end.

So what is it?  Where is the goal?  What is the endgame?

That’s not the end of my thought here, but it is the key question.  It was actually a conservative politician who got me thinking about this, Matt Salmon (R-AZ) who has a homosexual son.  In his comments, he stated publicly that he did not support gay marriage by saying this:

“It doesn’t mean that I don’t have respect, it doesn’t mean that I don’t sympathize with some of the issues. It just means I haven’t evolved to that stage.”

Hm.

So in essence, Mr. Salmon is saying that if he were more evolved, further along the path, he would hold the position of being in favor of gay marriage.

And so, if gay marriage is progress along a path, presumably (to its proponents) a good, dare we say righteous, path…

Where does that path end?  When does the progressive who wants to change things until we get it right become the conservative who thinks we have it right?

Just some stuff to think about as you continue on with your day.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this; drop me a line in the comments.